MANILA, Philippines - Amid an increasingly global marketplace for media content, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) will forge ahead with plans to go regional as it continues to be on the prowl for foreign television stations to add to its media empire.
On the sidelines of the Earth Resources Conference in Hong Kong Thursday, PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said the is not only vying for Filipino audience but Asian markets as well, particularly in Indonesia and Vietnam as it aims to establish a regional presence in the broadcasting field.
Pangilinan said investment in media assets would be vital to the group’s transformation from a traditional service provider to a multi-media and technology conglomerate.
He said the group is looking to acquire Indosiar, a leading Indonesian tv station owned by the Salim Group, which also owns PLDT’s parent firm, First Pacific Co. Ltd of Hong Kong.
Pangilinan said the group’s entry into the Vietnam broadcasting industry is still uncertain but they remain open to acquiring other TV stations in Asia to create new revenue streams.
Analysts said going regional makes sense should the group succeed in taking over GMA Network Inc. The acquisition of GMA would catapult Pangilinan’s group to the number one position and would result to a virtual duopoly in the TV industry.
The PLDT group, through TV5, is a far third in the TV market, currently dominated by rival networks ABS-CBN and GMA, which account for more than 60 percent of the Philippines’ audience share
TV5, however, has been steadily gaining market share through the introduction of new shows and acquisition of big talents.
As of end-2011, TV5’s market share has jumped to 18 percent in Metro Manila from only 2.3 percent in 2010 and 15.6 percent nationwide as against 2.7 percent.
Pangilinan said he is hopeful that a deal with GMA’s major shareholders – the Gozon, Duavit and Jimenez families – will be closed within the year. The purchase will be done under MediaQuest Holdings, a subsidiary of PLDT’s Beneficital Trust Fund.
Aside from television, the Pangilinan group also owns cable firm Cignal Digital and has significant presence in both FM and AM frequencies. It also has minority interest in three newspapers – The Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Businessworld. The group also has a block-time arrangement with IBC-13.
Cignal TV is now the largest DTH Pay-TV operator in the country with over 250,000 subscribers.
Pangilinan said the group is exploring new media initiatives out of a growing sense of opportunity as traditional telco companies around the world face the challenges posed by new and improved content delivery technologies from so-called “over-the-top players” like Skype, Facebook and Google.
“The strategic choice was to stay at the telco level and become a full delivery system—a pure highway. But that’s not the long-term future of the telco business. It has got to get into other areas that will enhance the value of the telco other than the highway,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilian said the group wants to accelerate its strategy to deliver leading content to all the broadband screens — TV, smartphone, tablet or computer — that its customers may choose.
To remain competitive, the PLDT Group intends to establish closer relations with Silicon Valley in California, where many of the world’s biggest technology firms are located.